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Keith Joseph

Keith Sinjohn Joseph, Baron Joseph, CH, PC, QC (17 January 1918 – 10 December 1994), known as Sir Keith Joseph, 2nd Baronet, for most of his political life, was a British barrister and politician. A member of the Conservative Party, he served in the Cabinet under four prime ministers: Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher. He was a key influence in the creation of what came to be known as "Thatcherism" and the subsequent decline of one-nation conservatism and the postwar consensus.

Joseph was the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family. His father, Samuel Joseph headed the vast family construction and project-management company, Bovis, and was Lord Mayor of London in 1942–3. At the end of his term he was created a baronet.

During World War II, Joseph served as a captain in the Royal Artillery, and suffered a minor wound during German shelling of his company's headquarters in Italy, as well as being mentioned in despatches. After the end of the war, he was called to the Bar (Middle Temple). Following his father, he was elected as an Alderman of the City of London. He was a Director of Bovis, becoming chairman in 1958, and became an underwriter at Lloyd's of London. In 1945, Joseph joined the leadership of the Post-War Orphans’ Committee of the Central British Fund for German Jewry (now World Jewish Relief).

After 1959, Joseph had several junior posts in the Macmillan government at the Ministry of Housing and the Board of Trade. In the 'Night of the Long Knives' reshuffle of 13 July 1962 he was made Minister for Housing and Local Government, a cabinet position. He introduced a massive programme to build council housing, which aimed at 400,000 new homes per year by 1965. He wished to increase the proportion of owner-occupied households, by offering help with mortgage deposits. Housing was an important issue at the 1964 election and Joseph was felt to have done well on television in the campaign.

Despite Joseph's reputation as a right-winger, Heath promoted him to Trade spokesman in 1967, where he had an important role in policy development. In the run-up to the 1970 election Joseph made a series of speeches under the title "civilised capitalism", in which he outlined his political philosophy and hinted of cuts in public spending. At the Selsdon Park Hotel meeting, the Conservative Party largely adopted this approach.

Despite still being a member of Heath's Shadow Cabinet, Joseph was openly critical of his government's record. Joseph delivered his famous Stockton lecture on the economy Monetarism Is Not Enough in which he contrasted wealth-producing sectors in an economy, such as manufacturing, with the service sector and government, which tend to be wealth-consuming. He contended that an economy begins to decline as its wealth-producing sector shrinks.

In Thatcher's Shadow Cabinet, Joseph wanted to be Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, but that was impossible since his notorious 1974 speech. Instead, he was given overall responsibility for Policy and Research. He had a large impact on the Conservative manifesto for the 1979 election, but frequently, a compromise had to be reached with Heath's more moderate supporters, such as James Prior.

As Thatcher's Secretary of State for Education and Science from 1981 he started the ball rolling for GCSEs, and the establishment of a national curriculum in England and Wales. Mark Carlisle, his predecessor in the Conservative government in 1979, had cancelled the plans of Shirley Williams, his second-last predecessor, to merge O Levels and CSEs, but he achieved that policy. Although that was not normally the responsibility of central government, he insisted on personally approving the individual subject syllabuses before the GCSE system was introduced.

In 1984, his public spending negotiations with his Treasury colleagues resulted in a proposed plan for extra research funding for universities financed through the curtailment of financial support to students who were dependent children of more affluent parents. That plan provoked heated opposition from fellow members of the Cabinet (particularly, Cecil Parkinson) and a compromise plan was found necessary to secure consensus. The compromise involved the abandonment of Joseph's plan to levy tuition fees but preserved his aspiration to abolish the minimum grant. The resulting loss to research funding was halved by a concession of further revenue by the Treasury team.